Eyes on the Street: A Traffic Circle Sprouts Up in the Richmond

Photos: Aaron Bialick

A new traffic circle has cropped up at 23rd and Anza Street in the Richmond District as part of traffic calming measures being implemented by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency.

As KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts showed in his “People Behaving Badly” segment yesterday, some drivers are still getting used to the circle, since the treatment is fairly new in the western neighborhoods. But by changing the way motorists navigate the formerly wide-open intersection, the circle discourages speeding, and it’s added some greenery to a very grey neighborhood. With 23rd being the flattest north-south bike route in the area, and the intersection being in a 15 MPH school zone, the location was ripe for traffic calming.

D1 Supervisor Eric Mar, who visited the circle on a bike ride with staff from the SFMTA and the SF Bicycle Coalition while it was under construction, said he “enthusiastically supports traffic circles and other traffic calming improvements in the Richmond District and citywide. As an advocate for stronger pedestrian safety measures, I am pleased to see the first traffic circle implemented in the Richmond.”

“Research shows that traffic circles like this actually move traffic more efficiently through intersections than stop signs, yet have less high-impact collisions,” he added. The intersection has stop signs for traffic traveling along 23rd, but not Anza. That’s one reason this is a “traffic circle” and not a “roundabout,” where all entering drivers would simply yield to cars in the intersection.

On the bike ride, Mar said the SFMTA “needs to create better signage and street striping that will help residents become more educated about traffic flow in the intersection,” and that neighbors could have been notified that the circle was coming. “But overall, this is a great design that will also create a new green space in an area that had been pavement and concrete,” he said.

The traffic circle is one piece of the Central Richmond Traffic Calming Project, which also installed planted islands at intersections along Funston Avenue (parallel to the Park Presidio motorway) over the past year. Along with the circle, “continental” crosswalk markings were also installed.

In the Outer Sunset, another traffic circle is “awaiting construction” at 28th Avenue and Rivera Street, said Ben Jose, communications officer for the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision.

The Richmond has a significant place in local traffic calming history — in 1971, San Francisco’s first bike lanes were installed on Lake Street after residents called for the measure to narrow traffic lanes and slow down drivers.

The 23rd and Anza traffic circle is notable because SF hasn’t built many of them since 2004, after an unsuccessful pilot project along Page Street. The traffic circles in that project, installed with only temporary measures like posts and paint, were criticized as being too small and confusing to drivers, and they were subsequently removed.

Still, Jose said the SFMTA has been “continuously implementing” them “at community request and in accordance to needs determined by engineering evaluation and guidelines. Examples include 10 traffic circles installed throughout the Bayview, Ingleside, Mission Terrace and Richmond Districts.”

Here’s the Roberts segment. Once more drivers get the message that they need to slow down, maybe the SFMTA can remove those stop signs and make this more of a roundabout.

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